Tuesday, May 31, 2016

magnify

My soul magnifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46)


I don’t know about you, but I totally get this idea.  After all, I am painfully aware that it is the tendency of my soul to always be magnifying something.  It seems to be wired into my DNA.  Unfortunately, the things my soul most often magnifies are not the things that bring life and joy and peace.  In fact, they tend to bring the exact opposite.  I tend to magnify my circumstances, or my fears, or my anxieties, or my inadequacies, rather than magnifying my God.  And when I do this, these dysfunctional patterns only seem to grow larger and larger within me, as my soul shrinks smaller and smaller.  That is the essence of the word magnify (megalyno in the Greek), which literally means to make great.  When things other than God are made great in our souls, our souls tend to shrivel and die.
    
The beautiful part of Mary’s prayer, on the other hand, is that she determines that her soul is going to magnify the Lord, rather than the million-and-one other things her soul could be magnifying at the moment.  She realizes that the choice of what to magnify is up to her.  She can choose to be consumed and overwhelmed by her fears and uncertainties, or she can choose to be consumed and overwhelmed by her God, and his love and his goodness.  She refuses to allow her circumstances to dictate her life.  In other words, she realizes that she can’t determine her circumstances, but she can decide not to let her circumstances determine her.  BrenĂ© Brown said it so well when she wrote: “The only decision we get to make is what role we’ll play in our own lives: Do we want to write the story or do we want to hand that power over to someone else?  Choosing to write our own story means getting uncomfortable; it’s choosing courage over comfort.”
    
So today, what will it be?  What will you magnify?  What will you allow to grow larger within you?  What will you make great?  What will determine the way you will live today?  Will you write the story or will you allow someone or something else to do that?  It’s up to you. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

a hundred times more


Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
     "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers children, and fields, along with persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first. (Mark 10:28-31)

It’s so easy at times to look at following Jesus in terms of what we have lost rather than what we have gained.  Who knows, maybe Peter is even doing that in these very verses.  But Jesus’ answer clearly gives us the lenses through which he wants us to view the kingdom.  And when we put on those lenses—the lenses of gratitude—it totally changes our perspective.  Think about it for a moment.  As you have followed Jesus, to this point in your life, what have you lost?  What places has it caused you to sacrifice?  Pay attention to these, because they will be many, and the cost, in some cases, will have been high.  There may have been moves and job changes and pay cuts.  It may have required much time and effort and energy.  It may have cost you loss of sleep or peace or heart.  All of these are likely costs that we may have faced as we sought to follow God’s lead and direction in our lives.

     Now take a few minutes and consider what you have actually gained from following Jesus?  Oh maybe not in terms of material things and acclaim and worldly success, but in terms of quality of life and depth of relationships and a sense of meaning, purpose, and mission.  I don’t know about you, but when I add up the two—almost fifty-six years into my life—it’s not even close.  It’s just like Jesus said it would be.  But, in all honesty, it actually feels way bigger than that.  It feels like what he has given me is a thousand times more than what I had, rather than merely a hundred times more.  It is an extraordinary life that God has given me.  And I am so grateful.  What about you?

Sunday, May 22, 2016

do not let yourselves

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  ~Galatians 5:1

One little word.  I’ve probably read it a thousand times.  But for some reason this time I saw it.  Not that I didn’t lay my eyes on it before, but somehow, this time, I actually saw it.  “It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”  How could I have missed it for so long?  When my freedom is being jeopardized by my circumstances or my anxieties, or the thousand-and-one other things that can threaten my sense of freedom, it is not something that is out of my control like I tend to tell myself.  It is something I let happen to me.  Christ has given me freedom, I am the one who lets myself be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.  I let the anxieties dominate me.  I let my circumstances control me.  Jesus offers me the freedom to not let that happen.  I am not just a victim.  I am not helpless and defenseless.  I have the power to stand firm from those attacks in Jesus.  In him, and in the freedom he offers, I can say no to the yoke of slavery, whatever it may be.  Is it that easy?  No, not at all.  As a matter of fact it’s one of the hardest things we will ever do.  Is it that simple?  Yes, it certainly is!  Because it is for freedom that Christ has set me free.  Be free.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

walk


Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, "We will not walk in it." ~Jeremiah 6:16 


I don’t think it’s any accident that Jeremiah tells us to walk in the good way.  In fact, it might be the only legitimate means of traveling the good way.  There is something very good about walking instead of running, sprinting, or hurrying.  Walking allows us to move at a pace where things are noticed, where we are able to pay careful attention to what is within us, around us, or in front of us at the moment.  When we run we miss so much.  We miss really knowing people, we miss really knowing ourselves, and, most importantly, we miss really knowing our God.  Knowing always requires time, space, and attention.  It requires listening.  And it is hard to listen, much less be present, when you are moving at seventy miles per hour.  God, it seems, is more of a three mile and hour God.  Just ask Jesus.

    
Jesus lived life at three miles an hour.  He walked everywhere he went.  He lived most of his first thirty years in the same small village, in virtual anonymity.  Even the last three years of his life were spent in a relatively confined region.  Why on earth would God do that?  Why would that be the pattern God chose?  There must be something significant about it or he would have gone about it much differently.  If it were up to me, I probably would have tried to cover as much ground as possible, for as many years as possible—maximizing my time.  I guess that shows how much I have allowed the culture around me to mold and shape (and distort) my thinking. 

    
But that is not how God chose to do it.  There must be something to that.  Maybe it is a hint of what it means to walk in the good way.  There must be something really good about smaller and slower and deeper.  There must be something really good about living at a pace where things and people get noticed, are paid attention to, and are truly known.  Maybe I need to reconsider my paradigm.  Maybe I need to ask God what it really means to walk in the good way.  Maybe I need to slow down.  The life of my soul depends on it. 

    
This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:5-6)

Friday, May 6, 2016

the good way


Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.  But you said, "We will not walk in it."  ~Jeremiah 6:16


What is the good way?  I guess that’s a pretty important question to answer if we ever have any hope of walking in it.  It is a beautiful thing to consider that God has made a good way for us.  It is an alluring thought.  But the truth is that so often I’m not even paying attention to it.  My daily reality tends to be that I just put my head down and march forward.  And quite often the way that I march forward in is not the good way at all.  It is simply the way of my habits and patterns, and of the demands and expectations of others.  Rarely do I take time to stand at the crossroads.  Rarely do I make space to look, to pay attention to whatever God might want me to see—or to hear.  Rarely do I stop to ask for the ancient paths, to ask where the good way is.  No wonder I have such a hard time walking in it.

     There is a good way though.  There is a way that God has made for us that is the way of life and peace and joy.  Not because it is so easy (in the way we normally use the word), most likely the way is not easy at all.  But it is his way for us, meaning that it is the way we walk with him—the one that leads to the life and the joy and the rest our souls most deeply long for.  After all, didn’t Jesus say, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  His yoke is easy in the sense that it was a yoke that was made for us.  The literal translation of “easy” in Matthew 11:30 is well-fitting.  It was made especially for us.  It fits us perfectly.  Therefore, the good way is the way that we were made to walk in.  It is the way that makes us most ourselves—our created in his image, God-breathed selves.  It is the way of being rather than doing.  It is the way of loving rather than defending.  It is the way of engaging rather than hiding.  It is the way of listening rather than proving.  It is the way that makes us come alive inside.  It is the way that gives rest to our souls.  The only question is: Will we walk in it? 

Sunday, May 1, 2016

my peace i give you


Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. ~John14:27 

So often in my life I feel like I am at the mercy of circumstances—anxious and afraid.  It is so easy to get swept away in a whirlwind of fear and anxiety.  But when I stop playing the victim, and fully realize the offer that Jesus makes me, I realize that I do have the power and wherewithal to choose to live differently—in Christ.  He offers me his peace.  Not just any peace, but his peace.  It is his gift to me.  All I have to do is receive it. 

Therein lies the problem.  I don’t always do that.  I allow myself to get overwhelmed and overcome by what is around or within me and it is just a downward spiral from there.  I think that’s because, although I know in my head that Jesus offers me his peace, I have failed to receive it.  Receiving involves more than just knowing in my head, it involves taking hold of that truth in my heart and making it my own.  We do not truly receive any gift until we take hold of it and make it our own.  And when I truly begin to do that with his peace, in prayer, anxiety and fear and insecurity seem to loosen their grip on me and I am able to breathe.

“My peace I give to you,” says Jesus. “Therefore, do not let your hearts be troubled.  You have another option.  When your heart is troubled it is because you let it be.  Receive my peace and your troubled heart can finally come to rest.  Do not be afraid.  Do not let your fears define you, but be defined by my love and my peace.  That is who you are.  Therefore, do not be swayed or blown about by fear, insecurity, or comparison.  Don’t allow people or things or circumstances to threaten or determine your worth.  Live in my deep affection.  Receive my peace this day.  Take hold of it.  Make it your own.  Be free.